Detained & Denied: The clinical care of immigration detainees living with HIV

I was scared that I was going to die in Yarl’s Wood when they refused to give my medication. It was as if they were turning off my life support machine. The way they treated me was inhuman. I felt as if I was a criminal. I was traumatised for a long time after my release.

I welcome this new report by Medical Justice and hope that it will be widely read and that UKBA will act on the recommendations. The research highlights the way people like me are not treated like human beings in detention.

As well as being HIV positive I’m an insulin-dependent diabetic and need to eat regularly. I was released from detention after four days. I felt very weak because I had had very little food and no medication during my detention. Interrupting my HIV medication had consequences for my health. 

UK threatens detainees’ lives by withholding HIV medication

Most HIV+ immigration detainees helped by Medical Justice have been denied life-saving medication in detention according to our new research. 

“Detained & Denied”, based on the first ever comprehensive analysis of treatment of HIV+ immigration detainees in the UK draws on medical evidence from 8 independent clinicians who assessed the detainees. Many of the 35 men, women and children studied are torture survivors from countries where rape is used as a weapon of war. 

As a result of denial of medication some detainees have developed drug resistance, necessitating more complex drug combinations which are inaccessible to many in the country they are being deported to.  Without these drugs they may die within a few years, leaving their children orphans in a country some of them have never been to before. More than three-quarters of the people in our study who were deported, had little or no medication. The UK Border Agency (UKBA) tried to deport an HIV+ pregnant mother who had been given less than a month’s medication even though it is critical that treatment is not interrupted during pregnancy, to avoid a newborn child becoming infected. 

Medical Justice has been granted permission by the Court of Appeal to intervene in the case of three HIV-positive (ex)detainees it has assisted who seek to have their detention ruled unlawful because of failure to treat them properly.  The “Detained & Denied” report will form part of Medical Justice’s evidence that will be submitted. 

Medical Justice calls for UK Border Agency to immediately stop detaining people who are HIV+ for immigration purposes. 

The UK Border Agency claims that healthcare in its centres is equivalent to that in the NHS, but the report shows that being in detention leads to a situation in which these patients cannot access proper medical care. In the case of HIV, this is a threat to the patients’ lives. HIV-positive people should therefore be released and properly cared for.”
Dr Indrajit Ghosh, a GP and HIV specialist who visited a number of detainees included in the study 

NAT welcomes the important report from Medical Justice, ‘Detained and Denied’, on the treatment of people with HIV in immigration detention, and deplores the continuing failures in care.  The NAT/BHIVA best practice Advice is there to assist those responsible to provide equivalent high quality care to that available in the community – not to do so is inexcusable.” 
Deborah Jack, Chief Executive of the National AIDS Trust (NAT)

Terrence Higgins Trust has supported many people with HIV whose health, physical and mental, has suffered while in detention. Given the clarity and quality of the BHIVA/NAT guidelines, there can be no excuse for this.”
Lisa Power, Policy Director, Terrence Higgins Trust 

The clinical care in detention centres is currently so poor that it is a dangerous place for someone with HIV. Health and wellbeing is affected and lives are even being shortened.  That is unacceptable.”
Jenny Willott MP  

The research highlights the way people like me are not treated like human beings in detention. … I was scared that I was going to die in Yarl’s Wood when they refused to give my medication. It was as if they were turning off my life support machine.”
“Mary”, HIV+ ex-detainee (name changed to preserve anonymity) 

We provide primary healthcare facilities in all immigration removal centres which are equivalent to those available in the community.”
Director of detention services, UK Border Agency20/03/11 

Nobody is denied access to necessary treatment or medication whilst detained“.
Lord Attlee2 March 2011 

“Detained & Denied” report launch and publication at 5pm on Tuesday 22nd March will be hosted by Jeremy Corbyn MP.  Other speakers : Lisa Power (Terrence Higgins Trust), Jon Burnett (author of “Detained and Denied”), an HIV+ ex-detainee, and Dr. Jane Anderson (British HIV Association).

20th March 2011 Independent on Sunday article : “Immigration detainees ‘denied life-saving drugs’” 

Contact : This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it / 07904 778365. 

Read the full report here:  medical justice detained%26denied March 2011